NORTH PORT, Fla. – When Spencer Strider woke up on Monday morning, he was ready to go. He knew he was throwing live batting practice later that morning.

“I’m in a bad mood and I’m ornery and they know that they gotta clear out the clubhouse when I walk in,” Strider joked after he threw. “I like that a lot. I’ve missed it. Certainly, with how things went last year, I’ve been itching to get back out there.”

Strider was half-joking. He has a great sense of humor and, no, he wasn’t walking through the clubhouse like this was a postseason start. It is only spring training. But he was serious about wanting to taste competition again, and he tried to have the correct mindset before he pitched.

During live batting practice in the main stadium at the Braves’ CoolToday Park complex, Strider faced teammates Matt Olson and Austin Riley. He looked, and felt, good. His stuff was crisp – for Feb. 19. He allowed a couple hits, depending on who you ask or who played in the field, but no runs. (This is all unofficial, of course, because Strider threw in an environment that simulated a game but had no fielders or umpires.)

One highlight: Strider toyed with a slider that featured a different shape. It looked almost like a curveball. It’s far too soon to know whether it could be part of his arsenal this season.

“I think it’s just manipulating the ball a little more, seeing what kind of shape I can get, different shapes I can get,” Strider said. “More so just kind of screwing around taking that chance right now in a live BP.”

Strider’s live batting practice session lasted for around 30 minutes. As he threw, Braves manager Brian Snitker, pitching coach Rick Kranitz and catcher Travis d’Arnaud watched from behind a screen at the backstop. Chadwick Tromp caught Strider.

“He looked really good,” Austin Riley later said about Strider. “He’s the best for a reason.”

Here’s a full breakdown of the day:

First inning

Olson: Doubled on four pitches

Riley: Struck out looking on four pitches

Olson: Line-drive out or single on four pitches (Right when Olson hit this, d’Arnaud yelled to call it an out. But later on, Strider conceded that it might’ve been a hit.)

Riley: Singled on two pitches

Pitches in this inning: 14

In his preparation, Strider treated Monday like a start. He wanted to be intentional about that.

“I think you have to, and I think I got into that mistake a little bit last year, where I was working on too many things and didn’t have clear goals every single time I got on the mound in spring training, and it kind of put me behind the starting line once the season got going,” Strider said. “For me, the strengths are fastball, slider. Those are gonna be the best when I’m the most competitive, when I’ve got the most effort and am focused. I’ve got to practice that more so than anything else out here.”

He’s learned. His first big-league camp was in 2022. Last year, he entered the spring coming off his first full season in the majors.

He knows now what he didn’t then.

“As these guys go, they’re gonna change, they’re gonna adapt, adjust, the whole thing, and get more mature in their preparation,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “Until they do it, they don’t know how to do it. And he’s one of those guys that is never gonna be satisfied, and he’s always going to continue to strive to make improvements in his game. That’s just what’s gonna make him great.”

Strider throws a fastball, slider and changeup. Him trying a different shape of a slider doesn’t mean he’ll abandon the hard one he throws. He knows his strengths are still his fastball and his original slider.

“I’m certainly not trying to take away my usage of those two pitches, necessarily,” he said. “But I think just sort of finding anything, even solidify the slider. Like, what is the best shape for it? That’s worth trying to find out.”

Second inning

Olson: Flyout to left or double on seven pitches (This one could’ve gone either way depending on who was in left field, but because of how long it hung in the air, perhaps it was a hit? Not to Strider. “He knows it’s an out,” Strider said. “It’s in the field of play, so we’re gonna treat it as an out. It wasn’t his best swing and he knows it.”)

Riley: Struck out swinging on five pitches

Pitches in this inning: 12

Total to this point: 26

At one point, Olson swung through one of Strider’s reshaped sliders – or what looked to be one of them. This is the time to play with things. Nowadays, there are so many terms for variations of breaking balls: Slider, curveball, sweeper, slurve.

“Who knows what anything is?” Strider said.

But Strider wanted to try something new. Let’s call it this: Toying with the shape. Maybe it eventually gives hitters a different look, maybe we never see it again.

“And I don’t even know how to verbalize it,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to decide what we’re gonna call anything, but I think just kind of giving myself more of an idea. Righty-lefty, throw a pitch, get a foul ball or a swing and miss, what’s gonna play best off of whatever the previous pitch was? The more feel I have for those situations, the better.”

Third inning

We’ll call this the third inning, but it really was Strider needing one more batter to get his pitch count to the desired mark. And he did that.

Olson: Flyout to left field on four pitches

Pitches: 4

Total pitches in the live batting practice session: 30

The final verdict: It went well.

Strider’s arm and mechanics felt good. The hitters and Snitker had positive feedback.

“That was really good, I thought,” Snitker said. “It was very impressive, which he has been all spring.”

Final Notes

  • Before one of the balls Olson hit, Strider let him know something different was coming. The different slider shape wasn’t new to Olson, who saw Strider a bit this offseason. “I think he sees the potential for some variation, I guess,” Strider said of Olson’s thoughts on him throwing a reshaped slider.
  • Strider hasn’t completely abandoned the changeup. He estimated he threw two of them on Monday.